Chandigarh: Haryana Agriculture Minister O P Dhankar has stoked a controversy with insensitive remarks that farmers who commit suicide are “cowards” and “criminals”, drawing severe flak from the Opposition with Rahul Gandhi raking it up in Parliament today.
“Committing suicide is a crime, according to Indian law. Any person who commits suicide escapes from his responsibilities and leaves the burden on his wife and innocent children and such people are cowards,” Dhankar, who earlier headed the BJP’s Kisan Cell, said yesterday.
Asked about compensation to kin of farmers who committed suicide, the Minister said,
“An institution like government cannot stand behind cowards (those committing suicides) and cannot be with a criminal.”
The Congress slammed the Minister’s “insensitive” remarks and demanded that he be sacked. The issue also echoed in Parliament with Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi citing it to attack the ruling BJP.
“Your minister in Haryana now says that farmers who commit suicide are cowards. You did not help them when their crops were affected by hailstorm, the farmers bore it. You ended their bonus, they bore it. You did not give them fertilisers, they were lathicharged, but they bore it and now their produce is lying in the markets,” Gandhi said in Lok Sabha.
Attacking Manohar Lal Khattar government, Haryana Congress President Ashok Tanwar said, “This shows the insensitive mindset of the BJP Government towards the farmers. Will the Khattar government wake up from its deep slumber or will it wait till more farmers end their lives.”
Despite the uproar, Dhankar today defended his remarks saying the the issue of farmer suicides was “hype” and “motivated”.
He also referred to the alleged suicide by a farmer Gajendra Singh at an AAP rally in Delhi.
Slamming the minister’s remarks, Tanwar said “a farmer is not coward, but those who are sitting in the government and escape from responsibility are the biggest cowards.”
He also said that “a farmer, who feeds the nation and whose children guard our borders, is brave”.
“We demand that either he should resign or he should be sacked by the Chief Minister,” the Congress leader said.
However, Dhankar today said the state government is doing its best to help the farmers and remained unrepentant about his remarks.
“I stand by my previous statement,” the Minister said.
“Drama is taking place ‘suicide, suicide’. I am doing my best to help the farmers…. I have been working with farmers since last 10 years. There are (crop) failures but committing suicide is not a solution.
“Facilities should be there so that they can restart from zero. We are with the farmers…. A drama happened in Delhi. Everyone saw it. That should not happen,” he said.
Referring to the Delhi incident, Dhankar yesterday told reporters, “One party termed it as motivated murder… it is unfortunate that a farmer had taken such a step in the presence of no less than a person than the Chief Minister himself”.
He also added, “People of Haryana are strong, they do not leave burden on their wives and innocent children, they themselves face the challenges. They are brave soldiers. In everyone’s life there are difficulties and one has to face them and move on.”
The Haryana Minister’s comments came on queries related to incidents of farmers allegedly committing suicide because of heavy crop damage and if the government was contemplating to give any compensation to their kin.
“This is not an issue to be assessed. Society does not stand with cowards, fugitives…after all who does not face difficulties in one’s life, but one has to face it strongly,” he said.
Earlier yesterday, when asked about the issue, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had said that it was very difficult to find out the actual reasons behind such incidents of suicide.
“It is always painful if somebody dies. It is difficult to know reasons for he takes his life which may be because of old debt, poor financial condition,” Khattar had said.